Battling Abuse A Team Effort

Much of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole’s plan to battle the drug abuse epidemic in West Virginia focuses on, well, focus. Cole, who is president of the state Senate, recognizes the very intensity with which Mountain State residents are fighting substance abuse is a challenge.

That is because so many different initiatives have been mounted in attempts to prevent the enormous damage drugs are doing to our people, our communities, and our state.

Cole, of Mercer County, knew that before he launched his run for governor. But his campaign travel throughout the state has given him more insight into the many approaches being taken to drug abuse, at all levels.

A seven-point plan to address the epidemic was released by Cole last week. It is well thought-out, calling for action on several aspects of the problem.

If elected governor, Cole plans to call the Legislature into a special session for action on the drug epidemic. At first glance, that may seem unnecessary; lawmakers normally convene in early January. But because of the gubernatorial election, the 2017 regular session is not scheduled to begin until early February. Getting lawmakers in Charleston prior to that would allow them to concentrate on drug-related measures.

Also in Cole’s plan is a call for harsher penalties for drug pushers.

Another excellent proposal is a two-pronged approach. Cole wants to do more to retrain laid-off workers for new jobs, thus giving them and their families hope that can prevent them from turning to drug abuse. He also wants more treatment options for addicts.

It is in the area of coordination that Cole’s plan holds the most promise, however. First, he plans to create a state Office of Drug Action to coordinate state initiatives.

Second, Cole wants to “identify, inventory and evaluate” all programs aimed at battling drugs.

Such action is long overdue. It is fair to say that no single person in West Virginia is aware of all the local, state, federal and private initiatives against drug abuse. Opportunities for coordinated action and to avoid duplication of efforts are being missed.

Coordination offers enormous benefits, perhaps more than any other aspect of the Cole plan. It is a team approach.

His idea is such a good one, in fact, that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should give West Virginians a head start on it by beginning the inventory process immediately.

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